October 28, 2010 at 1:49 pm EDT | by Kevin M. Norris
Strategies for success

Staying in a good exercise routine often requires asking yourself some tough questions. If you’re not exercising consistently, why not? What excuses are keeping you from being active?

The Center for Disease Control has a good quiz called “Barriers to Being Active” that can help you uncover the psychology behind your motivation issues. It’s online.

In 18 years of personal training I’ve found that aside from convenience, motivation is the No. 1 blockage for people in sticking with an exercise program. I’m constantly asked what motivates me and how I motivate others so I’m always sharing my motivational techniques and barrier-breaking perspectives.

It’s an area we all struggle with. I don’t always practice what I preach and even now am having sow personal struggles to stay focused. So these tools are just as much for me as you. We all need motivation.

There’s no pat, easy answer. Staying motivated is a process and a state of mind. Being focused and on track is a way of living and being that will continually ensure staying on the exercise balance beam. It’s also pertinent to realize that motivation will wax and wane. The key then, when this happens, is to have several motivational tools from which to draw, particularly when getting to the gym and staying focused is most challenging.

Human nature is flawed in creating excuses. There will always be an excuse that can keep you away from the gym and make attaining your goals seem elusive. Here is where your own personal mettle, coupled with some sound motivational techniques, can overcome those excuses.

I have compiled a list of some of what I consider the most successful exercise tools. These tools will help you stay on track and keep you goaded.

Setting goals, charting progress and keeping a journal are my biggest tools. I am constantly assessing and recording my goals and I journal just about every day. What do you want for your health today and tomorrow?

Here is where you can set what are called “smart” goals — specific, measurable, adjustable, realistic and timed. It’s a training methodology used by many coaches and teachers. Be as specific as possible and write your goals down so they can be tracked. Make them adjustable so you can adapt to change and variables. Avoid rigidity. And break them down into smaller, more achievable tasks instead of grandiose ones so that they’re realistic. Then give yourself a timeline to complete them.

You may want to lose a certain amount of weight or train for a marathon. The “smart” techniques are great ways to approach these goals.

Another functional tool is to create a “reasons” list. Write down all the benefits of exercise and all the reasons you want to exercise.  Write down every reason you can think of that you want to get healthy/get fit/lose weight through consistent exercise. Some of your reasons may be fitting into clothes, more energy, living longer or playing with your kids.

Schedule your workouts in your appointment book and treat them as importantly as any other commitment. Stay with a routine and create an exercise schedule that is the same every day and every week. The more you stick to a schedule, the more ingrained the routine will become, much like brushing your teeth and having your morning coffee.

Also consider hiring a personal trainer. You would be surprised how paying for a trainer keeps you on track. If it’s beyond your budget, try group training or scheduling regular exercise classes. Boot camps that are offered at just about every gym are an excellent method of whipping you into shape and many take place outdoors, a welcome change to the gym walls.

Find a workout partner. Look for someone that will stay focused, share similar goals and always show up. Partnering with someone who has a positive attitude will help tremendously as well.

And change your routine regularly. This is a big one. Periodically shake up your exercise program. Your body and mind respond best to changes in exercise routine.

Give yourself time, too. This is a crucial way of thinking. You can’t change your body overnight and dramatic results take time. When clients ask me how long it takes to “get in shape,” my general broad-based answer is six months to a year of hard work. And the most important thing to remember to maintaining good health is that it is a way of life and not a three- or six-month endeavor.  Being well is a long-term commitment.

Also eat well and get plenty of sleep. These two could essentially be another column. There is a direct correlation to what we eat and how we feel. Also, getting enough sleep is crucial to your well being. Thus, poor eating habits and inconsistent sleep patterns will thwart your exercise efforts. Be sure to include a sound nutritional strategy into your exercise plan and be consistent with your sleep.

Success will come from keeping all of these considerations in balance.

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